Techniques for WCAG 2.0

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SCR26: Inserting dynamic content into the Document Object Model immediately following its trigger element


HTML and XHTML, script

This technique relates to:


The objective of this technique is to place inserted user interface elements into the Document Object Model (DOM) in such a way that the tab order and screen-reader reading order are set correctly by the default behavior of the user agent. This technique can be used for any user interface element that is hidden and shown, such as menus and dialogs.

The reading order in a screen-reader is based on the order of the HTML or XHTML elements in the Document Object Model, as is the default tab order. This technique inserts new content into the DOM immediately following the element that was activated to trigger the script. The triggering element must be a link or a button, and the script must be called from its onclick event. These elements are natively focusable, and their onclick event is device independent. Focus remains on the activated element and the new content, inserted after it, becomes the next thing in both the tab order and screen-reader reading order.

Note that this technique works for synchronous updates. For asynchronous updates (sometimes called AJAX), an additional technique is needed to inform the assistive technology that the asynchronous content has been inserted.


Example 1

This example creates a menu when a link is clicked and inserts it after the link. The onclick event of the link is used to call the ShowHide script, passing in an ID for the new menu as a parameter.

Example Code:

<a href="#" onclick="ShowHide('foo',this)">Toggle</a>

The ShowHide script creates a div containing the new menu, and inserts a link into it. The last line is the core of the script. It finds the parent of the element that triggered the script, and appends the div it created as a new child to it. This causes the new div to be in the DOM after the link. When the user hits tab, the focus will go to the first focusable item in the menu, the link we created.

Example Code:

function ShowHide(id,src)
	var el = document.getElementById(id);
	if (!el)
		el = document.createElement("div"); = id;
		var link = document.createElement("a");
		link.href = "javascript:void(0)";
	{ = ('none' == ? 'block' : 'none');

CSS is used to make the div and link look like a menu.



  1. Find all areas of the page that trigger dialogs that are not pop-up windows.

  2. Check that the dialogs are triggered from the click event of a button or a link.

  3. Using a tool that allows you to inspect the DOM generated by script, check that the dialog is next in the DOM.

Expected Results

If this is a sufficient technique for a success criterion, failing this test procedure does not necessarily mean that the success criterion has not been satisfied in some other way, only that this technique has not been successfully implemented and can not be used to claim conformance.

Techniques are Informative

Techniques are informative—that means they are not required. The basis for determining conformance to WCAG 2.0 is the success criteria from the WCAG 2.0 standard—not the techniques. For important information about techniques, please see the Understanding Techniques for WCAG Success Criteria section of Understanding WCAG 2.0.